Luke Sikma Carving His Own Path
On the basketball court, Luke Sikma’s week in Las Vegas shaped up the way all athletes playing in the NBA Summer League hope. Over five games Sikma transformed his minimal role on the Wolves' bench to an energy booster who, in Saturday’s and Sunday’s games against, nearly doubled his minutes, shot a combined 8-for-9 with 16 points and 14 rebounds in two victories.
With each passing game and practice, the coaching staff’s confidence level in Sikma has grown immeasurably, noticeable not only in the number of times they yell “Yeah, Luke!” from the sidelines but also by the amount of extra minutes at pivotal junctures of games he is playing.
And that’s the way he wants it. Although his dad, Jack Sikma, is a Timberwolves assistant coach, Luke Sikma is carving out his own path—trying to earn his own shot in the NBA. Along the way, he’s enjoying a week working for his dad and getting to spend a little extra time together.
“Not a lot of people have that opportunity, and I’ll definitely cherish that,” Luke Sikma said of playing for his dad. “But I don’t expect anything extra. I’m here to earn my keep and earn my spot and just keep doing that.”
There are similarities between Luke Sikma and his father on the court—ask him, and he’ll tell you he has a similar old school ‘over the head’ jumpshot and picked up a lot of his rebounding instincts from his father.
From there, one’s playing career is over while the other is just beginning.
During his 14-year NBA career from 1977 through 1991, Jack Sikma was an anchor in the middle for the Seattle Super Sonics and the Milwaukee Bucks. He won an NBA championship in Seattle in 1979, was a seven-time All-Star and collected 10,816 career rebounds.
Luke Sikma finished up his four-year career at the University of Portland by averaging a double-double as a senior. He put up 12.9 points and 10.5 rebounds as a senior, and in his first week as a professional he found a way to continue that production on the glass.
At 6-foot-8 and 235 pounds and playing a post position, Luke’s size will make it a challenge to match up against some of the bigger, athletic talent the NBA presents. But if Summer League proved anything about his game, it’s that Luke Sikma is willing to take on the challenge through hustle, work ethic and a desire to succeed.
“He loves to play; he’s still growing as a player, but he understands the game really well,” Jack Sikma said. “Part of it is he continues to get more comfortable and confident in situations where the skill level is elevated. Every time you try to move up a little bit, to just go at it and get yourself comfortable there. I think this has been a good experience for him.”
From a father’s standpoint, Jack said it’s been great to spend additional time with Luke on the basketball court—since he began his assistant coaching career eight years ago, this is the most time the two have had sharing the game together in a structured setting. But from a coaching standpoint, Jack has been able to separate the personal from the professional and simply help Luke transition from college to the pros like any other player on the roster.
Luke said when the two are at work, he sees Jack as his coach. Summer League co-head coach Shawn Respert said it’s not easy walking that line, but it’s something Jack has done admirably.
"Jack is the ultimate pro," Repsert said. "And his son doesn’t fall far from the tree.”
This is the latest chapter of the two enjoying the game of basketball together through the years. Jack was Luke’s coach in middle school, brought Luke with him to previous Summer Leagues during his coaching career and challenges his son to shooting competitions regularly at home.
Luke said it’s a nice advantage to have an NBA assistant coach and former player at your disposal for offseason workouts, and the exchanges are back and forth.
Luke said those competitions are usually competitive—which Sikma has the upper hand is up in the air.
“It’s hard to tell,” Luke said. “It depends on the day.”
This week, there’s no debate which of the two had a breakout performance. Luke Sikma entered Summer League hoping to catch the eyes of NBA coaches and players. He succeeded.
“I’m proud of him,” Jack Sikma said. “And it’s just been fun to be this close to him in a basketball environment.”
Luke said more than anything, this week was an audition. He’s trying to make sure he has a place to play next season.
“Since I’ve been growing up, I think anybody who picks up a basketball when they’re young dreams of the NBA,” Luke Sikma said. “At this point, there’s still a lot of work to do, and it’s a job interview for me trying to find something for next year. So I’m just going to keep playing hard, show what I can do and help the team win.”